It was all one glorious accident. The indie pop duo known as Bad Veins began as something of a low key solo project for garage rock vet and multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Davis—an outlet for him to document his kitchen sink-symphonic, theatrical-pop compositions in the privacy of his bedroom studio. But when his musician friends came knocking in need of an opening band, he found himself onstage in front of thousands with a drummer and a 1973 reel-to-reel recorder.
Primary songwriter, and Bad Veins visionary, Benjamin Davis began his musical explorations fumbling around on a guitar his father kept behind the couch and using his dad’s trusty reel-to-reel recorder as an amplifier. Eventually, his father, a Vietnam vet, gave him the reel-to-reel along with his sergeant army jacket. That gesture would be an artistically formative one in many ways. The military imagery to this day presides over Bad Veins with their use of megaphones for vocals, decaying warzone-esque imaging in sound and in vision, and in the duo’s fan-named appreciation community, Bad Veins Army.
The reel-to-reel became a key musical ally when Benjamin received that first call to play live. “I remember looking across the room and seeing that reel-to-reel and realizing I could dump all the tracks onto that, it opened up the possibility of playing this music live,” Benjamin recalls. After a false start with a previous drummer, Benjamin encountered the exuberant John Bonham-meets-Animal talent of Jake Bonta. The two met on a Tuesday and by Saturday, after a grueling rehearsal period, were onstage in front of thousands.
Bad Veins is Benjamin Davis vocals, guitar; Jake Bonta, drums; and live member, “Irene,” a 1973 Pioneer reel-to-reel recorder that handles filling out the duo’s lush studio soundscapes onstage. The Cincinnati, Ohio-based two-piece is best described as an opulent hodgepodge of sounds and aesthetics, including warm analog ambience, busted electronic textures, symphonic and choral bits, and stately arrangements and compositional conventions that recall indie Charlie And The Chocolate Factory as much as they recall the blissed-out orchestral indie-pop stylings of producer Dave Fridmann’s iconic work with Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips.